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Good Grief, Charlie Hebdo!

It has been more than five years since the murder spree at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eleven innocent lives were canceled that day. Five more were killed by gunfire two days later — at the Hyper Cacher supermarket hostage attack in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris.

Because the murderers were killed by police, the trial of their fourteen accomplices to the bloodbath began on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. It was scheduled to last eleven weeks, until Wuhan virus infections delayed the proceedings. The paper has since re-published the Muhammad cartoons that “triggered” the primitive minds of these Islamic goons in the first place.

To get a sense of the journalism that offended the Islamic fundamentalists, Charlie Hebdo’s November 3, 2011 cover featured a caricature of “the prophet Muhammad.” For that edition, the paper’s title was amended to add Sharia Hebdo, and the caption read “100 Lashes if You Don’t Die Laughing.”

Illustrating the absurd with absurdity is the essence of satire, yet re-publishing these cartoons was also an act of courage, and it deserves to be recognized as such. While “good grief” is typically meant to convey frustration, Charlie Hebdo’s perseverance should be commended as really good grief.

Re-established in 1992 after an 11-year hiatus, the paper has a reputation for roasting religious leaders, right-wing politicians, and cultural trends. In other words, there are no sacred cows. Instead, the supposed omniscience of government and religious experts is repudiated with humor.

With the commencement of the trial in September, the timing may be poetic justice. The political and social pressure against free speech has only accelerated in Western culture during the last five years.

While it is easy to identify the villains as medieval Islamic fascists, they are not the only force at work against free speech. It also comes from EU judicial court rulings and government universities. Novelist turned philosopher Ayn Rand warned us in her 1962 speech, The New Fascist Frontier, “Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government — and nothing else.”

Yet anti-speech trends now manifest themselves in American media outlets, college campuses, and city streets. The destruction begins with a fascist takeover of the linguistic territory. The best way to do that is to assign ambiguous meanings to words, and the meaning of ‘violence’ is a good placed to start. In 2020 jargon, it means both “Words are Violence” and “Silence is Violence.” Take your pick.

On Wednesday December 16, 2020, all 14 defendants were found guilty. Good grief, Charlie Hebdo!

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